The Engine of Political Fraud in Malaysia

A reflection about what the theft of the Malaysian Royal Military Air Force (RMAF) symbolizes of our present political establishment.

By Fahri Azzat

A lot of us expressed disbelief that a RMAF jet fighter engines worth RM 50 million each were stolen along with other parts from the aircraft. The total cost is well over RM 100 million in terms of loss. Our government has not explained to us the opportunity cost of those aircrafts.

But our disbelief is not that there is crime in our country. It is not even that the theft is very likely an inside job. We know that most thefts in Malaysia on a grand national project scale are inside jobs. Our disbelief is that the present government is so completely corrupt and incompetent as to cause a breach of national security and endanger all of us.

How am I supposed to believe that we are secure as a nation when the security of our army, our camps, our military equipment are vulnerable to common theft? (The security of our military camps are not renowned: see PP v Mohd Amin Mohd Ramli & Ors [2002] 5 CLJ 281) If our armies are porous, corrupt and incompetent, what about our other security agencies like the Royal Malaysian Police Force and the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission, which has its fair share of completely deserving bad press? If the theft happened in 2007 but the news only broke in 2009, what does that say of our government’s attitude of accountability and transparency? After all, the Armed Forces chief Gen Tan Sri Azizan Ariffin was reported to have flippantly remarked, “The missing jet engine does not affect RMAF operations because we have more than 16 F-5E jets and only seven are used for tactical missions.” If it was not important, why not report it earlier? And if only 7 are used for tactical missions, what are the other 9 for? Making the hangar look good?

So when our Prime Minister promised there will be no cover up, without any reasonable explanation why this was not reported to the public, I do not believe him. I even think his comments were shallow bordering on stupid. In explaining his initiative, he was reported by Malaysiakini to have said, “In fact we went forward to the police. At that time I was the minister in charge. I decided we should report it to the police.” What was there to decide? Reporting to the police should be a standard operating procedure and not subject to ministerial discretion. Then in explaining what measures could be taken against the perpetrators he says quite lamely without a hint of outrage, “It depends on what the personnel had done wrong, It is up to the air force and armed force’s council to decide on that.” Of course it does. What did they do wrong again?

But if so then why were a brigadier-general and 20 officers reportedly sacked over the loss instead of being summarily detained without trial under the Internal Security Act? If this was a case that demanded draconian measures this was it. How can the theft which amounts to a breach of national security be punished with a mere sacking?

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